ACCC slam ‘false’ hearing aid ads which have conned pensioners out of cash

The hearing aid retailers have agreed to pay back customers fallen victim to the misleading advertisements. Source: Getty

Two major suppliers of hearing aids in Australia have been slammed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over their “false and misleading” adverts which have left thousands of pensioners massively out of pocket.

The ACCC blasted retailers Oticon Australia Pty Ltd and Sonic Innovations Pty Ltd, for their misleading advertisements, launching legal proceedings against the pair.

From June to November 2017, the companies were found to have published a total of 85 misleading advertisements which contained false claims that led pensioners to believe they would “no longer miss any conversations” and that they would receive other free wireless technology when they purchased a hearing aid.

In a statement released on Thursday, the ACCC confirmed they are taking action against the companies for the cunning adverts for the devices, which were supplied to patients under the Australian Government Hearing Services Program.

“Hearing aid advertisements have a powerful effect on purchasing decisions,” Sarah Court from the ACCC said. “The ads must be accurate and truthful, especially given that many of the people buying hearing aids may be vulnerable due to their age.

“The AudioClinic and HearingLife advertisements were targeted at pensioners. Consumers who receive hearing aids under the Hearing Program are, on average, aged in their late seventies.”

Court also urged those in search of a hearing aid to take their time exploring different options before making a purchase, adding that this is just the beginning of the ACCC’s crackdown on concerning practices within the industry.

“We encourage consumers to shop around for the best deal, compare offers, and choose a hearing aid that is right for their needs,” she said. “We expect to make a further announcement about enforcement action against another hearing clinic shortly.”

Both Oticon and Sonic are accredited by the Department of Health to provide subsidised hearing services and devices to those on pensions, veterans and defence force personnel as part of the hearing program. 

The government agency also revealed that both companies have admitted their wrongdoings and will make agreements with the watchdog in Federal Court. As part of their apology, Oticon and Sonic will also offer refunds to any customers to cover additional expenses paid that were initially promised as part of the deal.

Have you ever fallen victim to false advertisements?

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